How to Buy a Trash Bag

Cheap trash bags are no bargain if they split open on the way to the garbage can, spilling their contents and leaving a big mess for you to clean up. If this has happened to you and you need better bags, read on.

Beware of price extremes.

If a bag is really inexpensive, it’s likely to be too flimsy for household trash. On the other hand, pricey bags could be a lot stronger than what you really need. Store-brand bags often perform well at significantly lower prices than name-brand offerings. Sometimes, private-label bags are virtually identical to and made in the same factories as branded bags. This is a single-use product, after all, so don’t buy more bag than you need.

Check product labeling.

Before the introduction of high-strength plastics, experts advised using two- or three-ply bags. That way, a defect that splits one ply is “backed up” by at least one other ply that probably won’t have such a defect in the same place.

Now one ply is often enough, and generally the thicker the bag, the stronger it is. Thickness is measured in mils, or thousandths of an inch. Bags of less than 1 mil are quite thin, while a bag that is 3 mils thick is heavy duty. Modern plastics give more strength with less thickness. Information about materials and thickness is found on product labeling.

Think globally — and save money?

Some folks who favor recycling as much material as possible re-use plastic sacks from supermarkets and other retailers as garbage bags. This approach saves money and reduces the volume of material being deposited in landfills. However, keep in mind that re-used bags may have already been stressed when they contained your purchases. The thin, less elastic plastic found in most grocery sacks splits easily. Examine grocery bags before storing them for re-use; discard torn, split or heavily stressed bags, which are likely to fail altogether. The softer, more resilient polyethylene-based bags used by some retailers are generally more resistant to tearing and splitting.

© 2006

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